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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Nov 2019 - 6 Dec 2019

Human Studies

2020 Jul - Aug

J Pain



Effects of spicy stimulation and spicy-food consumption on human pain sensitivity: A healthy volunteer study.


Duan G, Wu Z, Duan Z, Yang G, Fang L, Chen F, Bao X, Li H
J Pain. 2020 Jul - Aug; 21(7-8):848-857.
PMID: 31783132.


Spicy-food intake has been shown to affect various human physiological systems and diseases. This study tested the analgesia effect caused by stimulation of a spicy sensation (spicy stimulation) and explored the effect of spicy-food consumption on human basal pain sensitivity. A total of 60 healthy undergraduates were included in the primary study. Placebo and sweet stimulation were used as reference interventions. Pressure and cold-pain thresholds were measured before and after taste stimulation. The frequency of spicy-food intake was also evaluated. An additional 100 subjects were recruited to validate the results. Compared to placebo stimulation, both pressure and cold-pain thresholds increased during spicy stimulation (P<0.05). The increased thresholds remained, even when the taste stimulation residue was nearly eliminated (P<0.05). The pressure (10.0[2.1]vs.12.7[3.0]kg/cm, P<0.001) and cold-pain (4.4[1.6]vs.6.2[2.7]seconds, P=0.003) thresholds in subjects who consume spicy food ≥ 3 days/week were significantly lower than in those who consume it < 3 days/week. In the validation population, the frequency of spicy-food intake was negatively associated with subjects' pressure (β=-0.218, P=0.013) and cold-pain (β=-0.205, P=0.035) thresholds. Spicy stimulation has an analgesia effect on adults that persists even after the taste stimulation stops. Conversely, a long-term spicy diet can reduce the human basal pain threshold. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study protocol was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Army Medical University, People's Liberation Army (identification No., 2017-023-01), and it was registered on the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry at www.chictr.org.cn (No. ChiCTR1800015053). PERSPECTIVE: This study directly examined the effects of stimulation of a spicy sensation on adult pain sensitivity and was the first to explore the relationship between long-term spicy-food intake and human pain sensitivity. The results provide evidence for future clinical pain intervention and individualized pain treatment.